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Panthers-Avalanche Preview

AP - Sports

The Colorado Avalanche are in unfamiliar territory.

Having lost consecutive games for the first time this season, they find themselves looking up at another team in the Central Division.

The lowly Florida Panthers visit the Pepsi Center Saturday night as the Avalanche look to get back on track and back on top.

The Avalanche (14-4-0) are coming off their most lopsided loss of the season, falling 7-3 at St. Louis on Thursday for their first defeat by more than two goals since April 19.

It included some unsuccessful penalty killing and shaky goaltending - both strengths through the first 17 games.

The Blues went 3 for 4 on the power play after the Avalanche started the year killing 47 of 53 short-handed situations, including a perfect 20 for 20 on the road.

"There's nights like this," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy told the team's official website. "One thing I liked about our team, even if we were losing 7-1, 7-2, we never stopped. We kept going at them, and I think we just lost our focus a bit in that second as well, but I thought we got it back in the third."

Jean-Sebastien Giguere was pulled in the second period after allowing three goals on 14 shots. Semyon Varlamov gave up two on six shots before Giguere returned for the third period. Collectively, they surrendered seven goals on 29 shots.

It was the first in-game goalie change Roy has made this year. Varlamov was charged with the loss, which keeps Giguere's opportunity for a franchise-best 6-0 start alive in his next game.

A second period in which they allowed four goals and managed just five shots of their own was their worst of the season, digging them a 5-1 hole two nights after a 2-1 loss at Carolina.

"There's no reason for us to down ourselves," Roy said. "We're 14-4. We played a really good game in Carolina. I thought tonight the puck didn't bounce our way, the puck bounced their way, it's a big team. I thought that we learned a lot in those games."

The 24-shot effort was their second worst of the year, but included goals from Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly.

Duchene's was his team-leading 12th. He has three goals and an assist in three games against the Panthers. O'Reilly has goals in his last two appearances versus Florida.

The Panthers (4-12-4) are the only Eastern Conference team still below the five-win mark nearly a quarter of the way through the season.

They haven't scored more than three goals since Oct. 11 - a 15-game span. Their 2.05 goals per game ranks 26th, and their league-worst power play is converting just 8.7 percent of its chances.

After Friday's 3-2 loss to Minnesota, their game against the Avalanche marks back-to-back nights against two of the league's top three defensive teams. The Panthers, meanwhile, rank 28th in goals against (3.30).

"We just need to learn how to play 60 minutes because that's what kills us," Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau said. "We're always down. We never score the first goal."

The Panthers have fallen behind in five straight, including 2-0 Friday before Tomas Kopecky and Huberdeau scored to tie it at 2-all. It wasn't enough to avoid their fourth regulation loss in five games and drop them to 1-5-4 in the last 10.

The Avalanche have won three in a row at home against the Panthers, including 4-3 on Jan. 18, 2012, in the most recent meeting.

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